AFL Season Preview 2017
The AFL season is right around the corner and with many predicting the GWS Giants will waltz to their first premiership, you’d think putting this preview together would be simple, but with a logjam of teams fighting for top eight spots and a sense of genuine unpredictability about a large portion of the league, nothing is certain. This article will attempt to give you a breakdown of the 2017 AFL season and serve as a betting guide as well.
- GWS Giants
- Western Bulldogs
- West Coast
- St Kilda
- Gold Coast
- North Melbourne
- Port Adelaide
This might be the hardest top eight to put together in recent years. Although, predicting the Giants to finish on top is about as easy as it gets based on the sheer amount of talent on their list. Sydney is a mostly unchanged team from last year and the grand finalists should be as good as ever with the power of their midfield and Lance Franklin up forward. The Western Bulldogs come in as reigning premiers and on paper are a better team this year than last year. Whether they’re able to carry their momentum on from 2016 or whether opposing teams will figure them out is the question. The final spot in the top four goes to Adelaide despite the worry about their midfield depth. They have a very favourable fixture and a forward line that will get them over the line in a lot of games. Even without Nic Naitanui, the Eagles will be a better team this year with Sam Mitchell in their midfield. They’ll be close to unstoppable at home, but their 2017 will depend on their performance on the road, which they’ve been historically poor with in the last few years. Expect St Kilda to be the 2017 season bolters. They’ve done their apprenticeship under coach Alan Richardson and boast one of the best forward lines in the competition. The Hawks are bound for a short-term slide without Mitchell and Jordan Lewis, but you can never write-off coach Alistair Clarkson’s genius. The safe bet is they’ll finish in the lower half of the top eight. Melbourne in the top eight ahead of Geelong probably will be seen as a bit of a stretch, but many people around the Cats aren’t particularly bullish about this season and the query will be where their improvement comes from this year. Someone has to miss the eight and Melbourne has quietly put together a seriously impressive best 22. It’s their first year under coach Simon Goodwin who has taken over from Paul Roos who shaped the squad.
Looking at those missing finals, Essendon should be a revitalised team with the drama of the last few years behind them. They have a strong list and built up a lot of depth last year that should carry over. They’re certainly not incapable of playing finals this year, but should be edged out, despite a handy fixture. Gold Coast has had some ridiculously bad luck under coach Rodney Eade with injuries. This year, they have Gary Ablett back and Tom Lynch looks set to become a force up forward. They’re another team that could have a shot at finishing in the eight if things come together for them – it’s a big if though. The Dockers had a shocking 2016 after being a genuine top four team. They lost key players for large chunks of the season, but now have Nathan Fyfe and Aaron Sandilands back among others. Their JLT Series form has been unremarkable, but coach Ross Lyon has never really taken preseason seriously. They are a complete mystery this season and should win a decent amount of games with their home field advantage, but whether they can recapture their finals form is questionable.
Now we get into the teams who are all bottom four contenders. Port Adelaide’s downward spiral since 2014 should continue. There’s nothing to suggest they’ll be a better team in 2017 and a lot of their key players are passed their prime. Coach Ken Hinkley will be on the chopping bloke if his team underperforms and that seems more likely than not. Richmond has had to take a few backwards steps after being on the edge of finals. Their list simply isn’t good enough to compete with the best teams and they rely on too few to do too much. They’ve added some pace to their previously slow midfield and boast the best key defender in the league, but unless they can get on an early season roll, expect them to hover around the bottom of the ladder. No team rides momentum quite like the Tigers though. Collingwood has been given a shockingly difficult fixture, playing Hawthorn, Geelong, Melbourne, Essendon and Port Adelaide twice. That’s 10 games and you can probably bank on them winning one or two of them. They’ve got injury issues, a coach under pressure and a team lacking in quality players at both ends of the ground so it’d be a miracle for them to be a top eight side in 2017. Every year, one team from the top eight usually plummets down to the depths of the ladder and North Melbourne shape up as that team this year. The Kangaroos culled their list mercilessly at the end of 2016 and don’t have the calibre of young players to replace the likes of Brent Harvey, Nick Dal Santo, Daniel Wells and Drew Petrie. They’ve been rated as having a decent fixture, but playing Western Bulldogs, St Kilda, Melbourne, Fremantle and Gold Coast twice will not lead to many wins for the Roos. The Lions come into 2017 under a new coach and that always means they could jump up the ladder a little like many teams do in their first season under a new regime. There’s certainly a lot of talent in their side, but the safe bet is they’ll hang near the bottom this year and begin the rebuild of their list. Carlton is a team that’ll bottom out in 2017. They’re right at the apex of their rebuild and are in the process of getting their list right for the next 10 years. They’re the team that should win the wooden spoon – and that’s not a bad thing for them.
With former Brownlow winners Gary Ablett and Nathan Fyfe both back this season, the Brownlow is a completely open race at this time of the year. Fyfe could easily win another and while many are putting a line through the soon-to-be 33-year-old Ablett, you can never rule out the best player of this generation. Last year’s winner Patrick Dangerfield is just as good a chance to win it again this year, assuming midfield partner Joel Selwood doesn’t take too many votes off him. Marcus Bontempelli was one of the breakout players of 2016 and in a side as good as the Bulldogs, is a very good chance to win the thing. Rory Sloane won’t have many players taking votes off him at Adelaide and if they perform as well as predicted, he’s a decent smokie too.
Predicted winner: Marcus Bontempelli
The Coleman Medal seems like it’ll be a race in three this season. Josh Kennedy and Lance Franklin are the two established names who will be the frontrunners. Both are former winners of the award and both are the focal point of their respective forward lines in quality teams. Gold Coast’s Tom Lynch kicked 66 goals in a struggling side last year and could be ready to become the stand-out key forward in the competition. Gold Coast should also be a much better side with the likes of Gary Ablett and David Swallow back in the side. The Crows have three players that could be in the mix for the medal with Taylor Walker, Eddie Betts and Josh Jenkins. Unfortunately, three players who all kick a lot of goals detracts from their individual chances of winning the Coleman Medal.
Predicted winner: Tom Lynch
Seriously, good luck stopping GWS this year. They have the strongest midfield in the competition, a forward line with all of the weapons capable of winning a flag, a strong defence and more depth than any side – they don’t have a flaw as far as their list-build is concerned. Its March so giving them the flag now is a little premature, but it could honestly come down to whether they can win big matches at the MCG. The reigning premiers the Western Bulldogs are as good a chance as any of the remaining sides with the quality of their list and Sydney might be the only other team capable of going toe-to-toe with the Giants.
Predicted winner: GWS Giants
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Writer / Editor at the Australian Betting Organization
Michael is originally from Queensland and is an accomplished writer who has worked in the casino industry for several years. He is drawn to anything with a wheel, reel, or dice.
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